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by Stephen Downes
January 13, 2010

Should I continue hosting blogs and wikis on campus?
Well, no, it's not OK to host Canadian student data on an American server. Privacy laws are quite different between the two countries, and Canada admits students that the Americans may have an interest in spying upon. That said, it should not be necessary to host blogs and wikis on individual university servers. I have long been lobbying for a national system that can be used instead. There's still no traction or money for such a system, but I announced in a recent internal meeting that I would be going ahead with a plan anyways. Niot that I hve time for more projects, but really, the time has come. D'Arcy Norman, Weblog, January 13, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

How to produce, publish and distribute a journal these days
I think off and on about publishing a journal. I would do it this way: submissions would be accepted only if they had already appeared online and received widespread recognition. The articles could be submitted, nominated, or simply found by the editors. On acceptance, the article would be cleaned up, if necessary, and added to what amounts to a library of canonical publications. Regular 'bound' versions would be distributed to people outside the field. The idea of the journal is not to act as a content filter, but rather to confer, post-publication, recognition to works of particular merit that pass scientific scrutiny by a community of readers. My system is a bit simpler than Leigh Blackalls, and one day I will put it into practice - I simply need a setup like (but without the login). It would double as a textbook as well. Leigh Blackall, Weblog, January 13, 2010 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Can I just get your attention…
The BBC News reports that students have attention spans of just 10 minutes, which is manifestly false. "It's just that lectures only hold their attention for ten minutes," writes James Clay. "That is a very different thing. If students can spend four hours playing World of Warcraft, what does that say about attention spans?" QED. (There's no link to the original study, and we are told by the BBC only that it was conducted for "the technology firm Olympus" and it doesn't show up in a search). It's already being cited as a fact. If you ask me, someone at BBC should be fired for this. James Clay, e-Learning Stuff, January 13, 2010 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment] [Tweet]

So many communities … so little time. What makes a community successful?
OK, I just want to be clear, if you have to join, it's not a community, it's a group. I know, there has been a lot of talk about creating and joining communities, including the discussion on this post, but it's mostly the appropriation of the word 'community' as a substitute for the word 'group'. The differences could not be more clear, however. A 'community' is an emergent concept, not created by any individual, or through any particular intention, but which is constituted by a cluster of connected nodes. The boundary lines are fuzzy and relative - all that's required for a community to exist is that there be some set of people to whom you connect more frequently than to most others. The remaining 'properties' of communities are descriptive and highly variable across communities. Certainly nothing defines a particular com,punity - especially not joining it. Once you understand what communities really are, you will stop trying to 'create' communities in a small enclosed space blocked with a password and login. Kevin Jarrett, Welcome to NCS-Tech!, January 13, 2010 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

Report and Recommendations from the Scholarly Publishing Roundtable
The scholarly pubishing roundtable has released its final report. The core recommendation: "Each federal research funding agency should expeditiously but carefully develop and implement an explicit public access policy that brings about free public access to the results of the research that it funds as soon as possible after those results have been published in a peer‐reviewed journal." It appears to have satisfied no one. PLoS didn't sign because it "stops far short of recognizing and endorsing the opportunities to unleash the full potential of online communication to transform access to and use of scholarly literature." Elsevier didn't sign because "the report supports an overly expansive role of government and advocates approaches to the business of scholarly publishing that I believe are overly prescriptive." Various Authors, Association of American Universities, January 13, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

How I Use Creative Commons For My Presentations
Brian Kelly describes how he uses Creative Commons material in his presentations. I employ much the same approach, but less explicitly. For example, like him, I provide a link to a resource (say, an image) that I've used. But I don't assert explicitly that the image may have different rights associated with it than my presentation. I don't assert it because this should be obvious, and it is only a lawyer's trick to assume that everything in my presentation would be licensed under the same terms as the presentation itself. That said, if you use my presentation under the license I provide (SA) then you will be safe using all its contents, because I was. But it doesn't follow that any restriction I apply to my content (eg., NC) applies to any of the resources I've used. Finally, I don't worry about criticizing a resource in my presentation. Now all of that said, if you are a publisher and you want to actually publish anything I've done, it falls under the National Research Council publication policy, and you need a license. That's why (well, one reason, at least) I use the NC clause in my license. Brian Kelly, UK Web Focus, January 13, 2010 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment] [Tweet]

A think-tank should sink or swim
"If the Canadian Council on Learning is essential," writes the Globe, "corporations or the charitable sector or both should flock to its rescue." Sorry, no. Charity sounds good in principle, but is notoriously fickle - when times are hard (which is when charities are most needed) people stop donating. And corporations donate only with an expectation of a return on investment - which is how we get think tanks that do nothing but parrot the corporate point of view, like the Fraser Institute.

Was the Canadian Council on Learning created in order to advocate for national standards, as Gary Mason suggests? Maybe, but the evidence for that is not overwhelming. Was it killed for political reasons, as he suggests? Again, maybe. But the argument can be made - and the Globe editorial makes it - that "at $85-million over five years, the Canadian Council on Learning is – to be blunt – a bit of a sinkhole." When I think about what I would have done with the money (we could have built a national online content and services network for the same cash) I can't disagree. The CCL may not have been essential - but equally, governments of all stripes have not been funding the sort of infrastructure that is.

More on this story from Joey Coleman, who asks why education professors aren't producing this kind of research (forgetting that it would still need to be funded, as professors can't fund national studies out of their salaries). Also, a Toronto Star editorial, which asserts, "The real reason for the cutback would appear to be political, on various levels." Press releases from The Liberal Party, the Canadian Federation of of Students, CASA. Editorial, Globe and Mail, January 13, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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